It’s a good day to be an Ole

Along with Bayley and Raffi winning the tournament, St. Olaf as a collective did a bang-up job all around. This was the first year that the MCFA separated individual sweepstakes from debate sweepstakes, so we managed to take home 1st place in debate sweeps. We also managed to pick up 3rd place in comprehensive (meaning adding speech and debate points) sweepstakes for limited entry schools. Our proudest moment was once again winning the Greg LaPlata Quality Award. Named after a pioneer in community college forensics programs, the accolade is essentially the “per capita” sweepstakes award, dividing sweepstakes points by the number of entries.

In short, it was a fantastic outing for the St. Olaf Debate team, and we couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out. Look for us at the last regular tournament of the year, the PLUM 16.5 on March 5th, as we wrap up the 2012-2013 season of the Parliamentary League of the Upper Midwest.

Debaters, friends, champions.

Debaters, friends, champions.

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Final: The US should adopt a program of comprehensive penal reform

The stage was set for the traditional Cannon River Showdown with Bayley and Raffi facing Carleton ET. I was personally disappointed that no one made even one “penal” joke, but beyond that the round was an excellent way to finish the tournament.

Bayley and Raffi got Gov and said the United States should abolish the death penalty. This would preserve justice by not executing innocent people, save death row inmates from the psychological damages of being falsely accused, and the savings from not doing executions could be used to improve inhumane conditions within prisons in the United States.

Carleton came back with a counterplan saying the USFG would expedite the appeals process for lawyer incompetency and offer more funds for public defenders, both of these things jointly solving for innocent people being executed. They had two key points of offense. First was a compelling political DA saying that Republicans forced to vote for the plan would no longer have compromise as an option in the future being that they were perceived as soft on crime, which means no minimum wage, sequestration solving, etc. The second was an observation on case saying that the death penalty has a huge deterrent effect where every person executed means five less murders are committed. They said that if the judges valued the preservation of innocent life, they had to enforce the death penalty to prevent future murders.

Bayley and Raffi had responses to everything: they permed the CP; said that if things like sequestration or the minimum wage are that important, Republicans will pass them anyway, while noting that Republicans like Paul Ryan have been much softer on the death penalty in recent years; the deterrent effect was unwarranted as people who commit murder are not rational actors and don’t operate under the same decision calculus we do where deterrence works; and finally that the counterplan never actually solves for wrongful executions. Both Graham from Carleton and Bayley gave probably the best rebuttal speeches I’ve ever seen personally, so it was a real nail-biter.

In the end, on a 2-1 decision, Bayley and Raffi came out on top! Much rejoicing was had by all to see that their work preserved the St. Olaf debate dynasty, the team having won every single state tournament we’ve attended since our inception three years ago.

2013 State Champions!

2013 State Champions!

Semifinal: This House believes that austerity is preferable to bankruptcy

Bayley and Raffi weren’t messing around and defined the resolution strategically/questionably by saying that  the house was the United States federal government, and austerity meant exactly what it sounds like, but bankruptcy meant undergoing “financial ruin”.  Fortunately, they backed up their definition of bankruptcy with an actual dictionary (one of the few resources you can actually consult during prep time), and one of the judges on the panel said, “I hate topicality,” in an earlier round when asked about her paradigm, so they were good to go in that regard. They set up two main contentions, that long-term prosperity is contingent on us getting our fiscal house in order now, and that all of the services we offer (Medicare, police force, etc.) would go away entirely if the United States just “went bankrupt” and we’d accordingly have a humanitarian crisis on our hands.

Bethany SS came back and said that Bayley and Raffi had a weird definition of bankruptcy, and that in the context of a country bankruptcy should mean more of a “reset button” where the country retools its finances. Bethany always plays the metaphor game really well and said the debate came down to whether the judges would prefer a quick death then being defibrillated  back to life versus being slowly choked to death. Raffi took a huge swing on that via questions by continually pressing SS on what bankruptcy would actually look like for the United States, which was never made very clear. That paved the way for Raffi to really expand on the humanitarian impacts (I personally had the word “ANARCHY!” written twice on my flow), which Bayley hammered home in the rebuttal, saying the risk of essentially societal collapse outweighed any of the cuts that we would  make to ensure longevity. They won on a 3-0 decision.

Quarterfinal: This House believes that dependence on hydraulic fracking is unsustainable

Kevin and I made it on, and Bayley and Raffi automatically won the octo, so we had two teams running strong. Bayley and Raffi got Gov, and Kevin and I got Opp.

So this resolution does a couple of weird things which ended up defining all four rounds, based on talking to other people. First, in the status quo we are not dependent on hydraulic fracking; it’s a large part of our energy portfolio, but does not make up a plurality of that portfolio, so the resolution forces us to envision a world where we ramp up hydraulic fracking significantly. The second and more concerning aspect  is that hydraulic fracking draws natural gas, a fossil fuel, which in the traditional sense is unsustainable by definition. A fossil fuel can’t last forever, so it’s not sustainable. Which is what every single team on Gov ended up saying.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, every single team that was placed on Opp got knocked out of the tournament. Raffi and Bayley ended up beating a hybrid St. Ben/Bethel team and we lost to Carleton. The personal opinion of this author is that if the same side wins every single round, that probably suggests something unfair in the resolution. Nonetheless, any sort of unfairness has little “impact”, if you will. The teams in the semis, Carleton ET, our very own Bayley and Raffi, SCSU LR, and Bethany SS, are all fantastic teams, and even if the resolution were more evenly balanced, it’s highly possible that those teams could have won anyway.

We’re in the room with Bayley and Raffi right now, waiting for Bethany to get done with some Extemp so we can start the round. We wish the best to the remaining semi-finalists and we can’t wait to root on Bayley and Raffi!

– Alex

UPDATE: Looking back at the ballots, this round wasn’t unwinnable for Kevin and I as the earlier post might have made it out to be. The judges pretty clearly outlined possible tacks we could’ve taken to win the round. Not to say that the odds weren’t stacked against us, but Carleton did a spot-on job and weren’t even as abusive as they could’ve been.

Octofinals: The United States should take a strategic risk toward Iran

Bayley and Raffi and Kevin and I broke! Even better, Bayley and Raffi were first seed, meaning they got the one bye offered and didn’t have to debate this round.

Kevin and I were Opp, and the government team ran that we should end all sanctions against Iran. They said that would lead to better Iranian relations and better U.S. soft power as a whole. We had two main arguments: U.S.-Israeli relations goes down due to the U.S.’s sleight, and so the U.S. doesn’t had its one foothold into Israel anymore and all hell breaks loose in the Middle East because the U.S. is the source of stability (imperialism!). We also said that no sanctions means no check on Iran, they attack Israel, nuclear war ensues, everyone dies. The end.

– Alex

Round 4: The United States Postal Service is an important public good

This was one of those rounds where there was a, perhaps surprising, informational gap. Most people weren’t aware that the post office had decided to stop sending mail on Saturdays or that the USPS has a huge artificially created deficit due to Congress requiring them have enough pension funds for the next ten years. The majority of the rounds also tended to stray away from the proper Econ jargon definition of a public good, saying that a public good is just anything that the public uses. We didn’t talk to a single team, either Olaf-based or from another school, that really liked the way things went. “Important” became a very ambiguous adjective that was subject to a huge variety of interpretations. Nevertheless, we’re done with prelims and await the announcements regarding the octofinal rounds.

Round 3: Drones are a legitimate tool

In some weird twist of fate, every single one of our teams just happened to be on Gov. Yay, defense of America’s use of technology to support hegemony. Everyone did a facts or a values case, and two of our teams ran, “Drones are a legitimate tool… for reconnaissance.” Both teams weirdly made an analogy to hammers, saying things like, “If the resolution was, ‘Hammers are legitimate tools,” we would have to specify what they’re a legitimate tool for, so we would say, ‘Hammers are a legitimate tool for pounding nails,’ as opposed to ‘Hammers are a legitimate tool for sanding.” With all of the necessary pantomimes present. Unsurprisingly, T was run and fun times ensued.